I don’t gamble because money changes people

A friendly game of cards couldn't hide a cheat...could it?

Working in community journalism my entire adult life, money isn’t really a serious problem that I’ve had to deal with. By that I mean, there are no large piles of money laying around in my house, causing issues for pedestrian traffic.

Hence, I try to be as practical as possible. Living on a tight budget encourages you to be practical and avoid waste. That $20 you saved on groceries could be the gas money you need to see family on the weekend.

However, there is one thing that I seriously balk at where my money is concerned, and that is gambling. Part of it stems from basically being broke most of my life (I don’t have the kind of money you need to gamble) but I’ve noticed that, when money is involved, people change. Even people you think you know.

When I was in college in 1993, we journalists were a tight crew. We spent a lot of time together both in class and outside. Most of us lived on a budget even in college, so the recreational activities we enjoyed tended to be simple and cheap. We played a lot of cards.

One week, we decided to let one of our classmates teach us the game “hearts.” Hearts, according to Wikipedia, is an “evasion-type” trick-taking playing card game for four players, although variations can accommodate 3–6 players. For some people, it’s not worth playing a game if money isn’t involved. Therefore, one person in the group wanted to play for pennies, nickels and dimes. We all said “okay,” mostly to maintain harmony in the group.

After a few hands, one of my buddies whispered to me that he suspected the player who requested we play for money was cheating. Apparently, the player in question was counting cards. It turned out that, yes, the player in question was counting cards and cheating his friends.

Counting cards is, in essence, using your memory to keep track of which cards have appeared thus giving you an ability to predict the cards that have yet to appear. A few people who use this form of cheating often try to minimize or justify it by saying it’s not cheating. However, counting cards is forbidden in any casino in Las Vegas, for example, and if you’re caught doing it, some casinos will ban you for life. So explain to me how you can be banned for life for something that isn’t considered cheating.

I realize some people enjoy gambling, and know when to stop. Lottery, for example, apparently can be a lot of fun to play. Despite the fact that, mathematically, it’s more likely you’ll be struck multiple times in your life by lightning than it is that you’ll win the lottery just once.

It bothers me that money, even miniscule nickels and dimes, were so important to somebody that they would lie to and cheat people who called him “friend.” So no more gambling of any sort when friends are involved as far as I’m concerned.

Where I come from, good friends are worth a lot more than five or ten cents.

Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.